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JK Moving & Storage, Inc. v. Winmar Construction, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division

November 13, 2018

JK MOVING & STORAGE, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
WINMAR CONSTRUCTION, INC., Defendant•

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          CLAUDE M. HILTON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion for Attorneys' Fees and Costs.

         JK Moving & Storage, Inc. (Plaintiff) is a Virginia corporation in the moving, storage, and relocation industry. Winmar Construction, Inc. (Defendant) is a commercial interior and hospitality construction company incorporated in the District of Columbia with license to conduct regular business in Virginia. In October 2017, Plaintiff filed a lawsuit alleging breach of contract (Count I) and fraud (Count II) against Defendant in Loudon County, Virginia. The case was timely removed to this Court. Defendant also sued Plaintiff in the District of Columbia; those claims were ultimately dismissed and then raised as affirmative defenses in this case. On May 16, 2018, the magistrate judge entered a consent order (Consent Order) stating that if Plaintiff was successful on Count I, it would be able to pursue attorneys' fees related to Count I pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(d). On June 7, 2018, this Court granted partial summary judgment dismissing Plaintiff's Count II.

         After a two-day trial in July 2018, a jury awarded Plaintiff the full amount of damages sought, $74, 688.42, and judgment was entered on July 10, 2018 pursuant to that verdict. Plaintiff filed a timely bill of costs on July 20, 2018 seeking $6, 870.84 in non-taxable costs and $6, 119.05 in taxable costs. Plaintiff also moved for attorneys' fees on July 24, 2018 in the amount of $399, 915.50.

         Defendant responded with objections to both Plaintiff's bill of costs and request for attorneys' fees. Defendant also appealed the judgment, as well as an order on a motion in limine, both of which are currently pending before the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

         The Court first turns its attention to the attorneys' fees. When considering the appropriateness of attorneys' fees, a court must consider twelve factors. Grissom v. The Mills Corp., 54 9 F.3d 313, 320-21 (4th Cir. 2008); Barber v. Kimbrell's, Inc., 577 F.2d 216, 226 (4th Cir. 1978), cert, denied, 439 U.S. 934 (1978). "These include: (1) the time and labor expended; (2) the novelty and difficulty of the questions raised; (3) the skill required to properly perform the legal services rendered; (4) the attorney's opportunity costs in pressing the instant litigation; (5) the customary fee for like work; (6} the attorney's expectations at the outset of the litigation; (7) the time limitations imposed by the client or circumstances; (8) the amount in controversy and the results obtained; (9) the experience, reputation and ability of the attorney; (10) the undesirability of the case within the legal community in which the suit arose; (11) the nature and length of the professional relationship between attorney and client; and (12) attorneys' fees awards in similar cases." Barber, 577 F.2d at 226 n. 28. See also Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 434 n. 9 (1983) (approving of these twelve factors as named in Johnson v. Georgia Highway Express, Inc., 488 F.2d 714, 717-719 (5th Cir. 1974)). When considering the Barber factors, a court need not mechanically list or comment on each factor, only those that are applicable. Bergstrom v. Dalkon Shield Claimants Trust (In re A.H. Robins Co.), 86 F.3d 364, 376 (4th Cir. 1996).

         The Court finds that Factors 1, 3, 5, 8, 9, and 12 weigh in Plaintiff's favor, each are addressed below. The remaining factors are either uncertain or inapplicable.

         The Court finds that Factor 1, the time and labor expended, weighs in Plaintiff's favor. Plaintiff's litigation team of ten people worked a combined total of 1, 206.4 hours on this matter in approximately a year's time. This number includes a decrease in the number of hours actually worked as Plaintiff's attorneys reduced their bill by twenty-eight percent and removed costs for a motion where costs were already awarded. Further, Plaintiff states that it did not submit the time of certain other lawyers and staff that contributed to the preparation of this case. The number of hours billed here is a fair and accurate representation of the time and labor expended.

         The Court finds that Factor 3, the skill required to properly litigate the case, weighs in favor of Plaintiff. The skill required by Plaintiff s counsel in this matter was significant as this matter was contested in multiple arenas. Plaintiff originally filed this case in Virginia state court before it was removed to this Court. Defendant sued Plaintiff over the same matter in the District of Columbia and raised complaints that needed legal attention in front of the District of Columbia Department; of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs. While this case began as a simple breach of contract suit, it arose into complex civil litigation requiring counsel with significant skill and experience in federal court, as well as other fora.

         Factors 5 and 12, the customary fee for similar work and fee awards in similar cases, both weigh in Plaintiff's favor. The Court uses the matrix provided in Vienna Metro LLC v. Pulte Home Corp. as an indicator of whether the hourly rates charged by Plaintiff's attorneys are appropriate. l:10-cv-502, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 158648, at *18 (E.D. Va. Aug. 24, 2011). This is appropriate as the matrix considers the skill of the timekeeper, the customary fees in Northern Virginia, the experience of the timekeeper, and has been used in numerous similar cases. Id. at *21-23. See also Burke v. Mattis, 315 F.Supp.3d 907, 913 (E.D. Va. 2018) (finding Vienna Metro to be an indicator of reasonable rates); Antekeier v. Lab. Corp. of Am., l:17-cv-786, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 179684 at *11-12 (E.D. Va. Aug. 29, 2018) (same). The Vienna Metro matrix provides the following ranges for hourly rates based on years of experience:

Paralegal

1-3 years

4-7 years

8-10 years

11-19 years

20 years

$130-350

$250-435

$350-600

$465-640

$520-770

$505-820

         The rates charged by Plaintiff's litigation team are as follows:

Time Keeper

Experience

Hourly Rate

Elaine C. Bredehoft

34 years

$650.00/hour

Peter C. Cohen

34 years

$550.00/hour

Kathleen Z. Quill

22 years

$425.00/hour

Hans Chen

14 years

$475.00/hour

Nicholas Erickson

12 Years

$450.00/hour

Daphne S. Gebauer

11 years

$425.00/hour through 2/1/18; $450.00/hour thereafter

Joshua E. Holt

9 years

$425.00/hour

David E. Murphy

2 years

$300.00/hour

Leslie A. Hoff

25 years (Paralegal)

$250.00/hour

Michelle Bredehoft

8 years (Paralegal)

$250.00/hour

         Here, the Court notes that all of the hourly rates charged by Plaintiff's litigation team are within or below the amounts ...


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